Big thongs for the wrong throngs

I’d like to briefly draw your attention to a typo so deliciously wrong it made me wonder if it was deliberate. At Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade last month, crowds lined the streets so deeply that “out-of-towners were complaining they couldn’t see a thing”. More disturbingly, “Many were disappointed they couldn’t penetrate the thong of onlookers.”

By the simple loss of a letter r, the AAP transformed a crowd of parade goers into a horde of sexually frustrated degenerates. Not only that, but a “thong of onlookers” suggests that one large thong was being worn simultaneously by multiple parties. The image doesn’t bear thinking about — but there it is, already in your head and on several major news websites.

Okay, so it was a Mardi Gras parade. But even in so liberated a context, there are limits to what is publicly acceptable. And for good reason: think of the children! The presence of a few other typos in the story lends weight to the probability that the misspelling was an innocent mistake, but the case remains unresolved.

My thanks to Michael Quinion for sharing this lustful lapse. Let’s hope those responsible are roused, but not aroused, to appropriate action.


13 Responses to Big thongs for the wrong throngs

  1. Alice Bell says:

    Downunder, I thought thong was just what we in England call a flip-flop? (don’t know what it is in Ireland).

    When I worked briefly in a Science Museum in Brisbane (c. 2001) they had an interactive exhibit where you hit a set of pipes with an old shoe to play tunes. It was, to much amusement of UK tourists, called a ‘Thongaphone’. Locals didn’t think it was odd/ rude at all.

  2. Aren’t you forgetting where the event took place? In Sydney, i.e. here in Australia, where a thong is something that some people wear on their feet.

    Anyway, I would’ve been more impressed had the typo been: “out-of-towners were complaining they couldn’t see a thong.”

  3. Stan says:

    Alice: In Ireland, thong has the usual meaning of a narrow strip or strap, including the kind on a flip-flop, but I think its primary contemporary sense as a standalone noun is of a skimpy undergarment. (I’m open to correction on this.) I like the idea of the thongaphone, with its onomatopoeic name.

    Dragon: That would have been a neater typo, and a less provocative one. I didn’t forget the common Australian-English sense of thong, but after weighing up the possible asides and qualifications, I decided to write a shorter and sillier post even at the risk of oversimplification.

  4. Chris says:

    I can’t read any use of the word “penetrate” without a sexual interpretation. Guess I’m just lewd.

  5. Stan says:

    Chris: I think penetrate sometimes carries strong sexual connotations, but it hasn’t been spoiled yet, at least not for me. Intercourse and ejaculate, on the other hand, are virtually ruined in non-sexual contexts. But I can still hear of a penetrating insight, sound, or manoeuvre without the sense being remotely corrupted. A few months ago, in a blog post about awesome, I wrote that “its ubiquity has almost attained a level of colloquial penetration that cool did before it”. Repetition in the present context might give that example an unseemly flavour, but it seems too figurative to be rude.

  6. wisewebwoman says:

    Oh, but wouldn’t there by a major ouch factor? Thanks for the visuals…

  7. Stan says:

    There could, WWW! I suppose it depends on how literally it happens.

  8. Perhaps the thong was a communal protection against immoral acts by out of towners…

  9. Stan says:

    That would have been quite a thong, Jams.

  10. Tim says:

    Thing… thing a thong. Thorry, I couldn’t help it. XD

    “Penetrate” doesn’t elude to sexual connotation for me, either. I would also gladly use the word “ejaculate” in a sentence that was about someone spouting something from their flapping jaw and open maw. I almost actually used it earlier today, but my approach seemed a little fierce, so I rewrote the sentence to be less of a personal confrontation. Even if the guy was being a judgemental prick.

  11. Stan says:

    Tim: The connotations of a word seem to depend heavily on context, and to vary accordingly: a word with certain overtones in one instance could carry entirely different ones in another. This applies to both linguistic context and personal context — mood, company, preoccupations, memory and so on.

  12. absurdoldbird says:

    Thongs ain’t what they used to be…

  13. Stan says:

    I thonk you’re right, absurdoldbird!

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